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Legend of Drunken Master

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Legend of Drunken Master

Starring: Jackie Chan, Anita Mui
Director: Lau Kar Leung
Rated: R
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: October 2000
Genres: Action, Comedy, Foreign, Martial Arts

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

This is the first time that I've ever started off a review by telling you what film I'm not reviewing. This is not a review of THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER (1994), starring the lovable Jackie Chan. The 1994 version was in the original Chinese and came with English subtitles. I have a critic-friend well versed in Hong Kong cinema, who claims the 1994 version is a classic martial arts picture of the comedic action genre. I came late to the Jackie Chan admiration society. Although I'm a fan now, with my favorite being his recent SHANGHAI NOON, I haven't seen any of his early films such as this movie.

In order to capitalize on the Chan phenomenon and knowing that American audiences are generally too lazy to read, the studio has released a poor and awkwardly dubbed reissue of the original. This review is strictly for the dubbed version. How these thoughts would apply to the original, I have no idea. I absolutely shudder to think what my second favorite film of last year, RUN LOLA RUN, would sound like dubbed into English.

Chan stars in a picture with a remarkably thin plot. As usual he does everything himself from getting beaten up to falling on burning coals. Is there no limit to the pain he has to endure for his craft? In his normal outtakes shown during the closing credits, he proves to us yet again that he does do all of his own stunts, risking his life and limb.

His schtick this time is that he is a master of the art of drunken fighting. Tanked up with lots of booze, which he guzzles during the bouts, he bobs and weaves so that hitting him is like trying to strike blowing grass in a strong wind. As almost an afterthought, the story lets us know that even a drunken master can over imbibe, rendering him more of a fool than a master.

The beauty of Chan's films is due as much to the ballet-quality choreography that he brings to kung fu as to the humor that permeates everything that he does. In a nutshell, the problem with THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER is that there is too much fighting gymnastics and too little of the story development. This means that the story dissolves into little more than slapstick and highly repetitive fight sequences. I wanted more than this and left the theater feeling cheated. This was one of the unusual Chan movies in which I didn't have much fun. Maybe you will. Or maybe you'll avoid this theatrical version entirely and go rent the subtitled one instead.

THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER runs 1:42. It is rated R for violent content and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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